Jul 05, 2020 5:14 AM
A Starfleet vessel stumbles across an unintentional visitor.
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Navigation shows their location as still within Federation space, but close enough that Drake's speed at subverting the vessel leaves the Palmer much more relaxed as it pulls up alongside.

Wells grimly vaporizes the holding pen door, as the rest of the team stumbles in afterwards looking a bit shocked. She gestures for Va'Resh to take a look at the prisoners, and starts speaking quietly with them.

Captain Zarikk sends out a general hail. "This is Captain Zarikk of the USS Palmer. Unidentified Orion vessel, please state your status!"

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"USS Palmer, this is Captain Drake Lugh. The vessel's computer core is under my complete and direct control. The original crew are all either neutralized or contained in whatever room they happen to be in, all physical control systems have been rendered inoperable, and the prisoners are safely in our custody. The ship is ours. Recommend you send a full medical team including psych specialists. I'll bet my next nonexistent paycheck that at least half of these people are going to have at least some PTSD. And all of them have probably been hit with enough pheromone to knock out a moose."

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"Acknowledged, Lugh. We have the warp core locked on and you're still in Federation space, so let's try to handle everything else with less trauma. A larger medical team will be beaming directly to the prisoners, Lt. Commander Wells will be overseeing interviews with all crew and prisoners to determine whether we're taking them with us. Chief Trelway will be beaming in to initiate a warp core flush and disconnect the primary breaker arrays for all weapons systems, please assist him with these procedures then stand by."

The Orion crew recognize when they've been beat, and stands aside as the team secures and disables the vessel. Wells sets up some privacy tents in the main hangar for the interviews.

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While Wells deals with the biological side of things, Trelway and Drake meet up on the engineering deck to take care of the technology side. Initially they run into some problems getting Trelway into the system to initiate the warp core flush with all the consoles blown out, but eventually they figure out a system of using Drake's palm hologram emitter as a console stand in. Trelway entering the commands onto a holographic console, and Drake copying the Chief Engineer's actions in the computer system. With that system in place the warp core is soon secured, and the ship's weapons along with it.

Once that project is complete Drake notifies the Palmer before returning to the main hold to inform Wells of the same. As he walks through the hold though, he notices that many people make themselves scarce when he approaches, and even more look at him with a fearful gaze. With the Orions, that reaction is easy for him to understand, with the prisoners though? It causes him to pause for a moment and glance back through his memory. With a start, he realizes that not only the Orions and prisoners, but even some of the Starfleet crew that had accompanied Wells in the mad dash to the hold had been acting wary or even outright afraid of him since they had taken the ship. With an internal sigh, he informs Wells that the ship has been fully secured and retreats to the bridge, deserted both due to how many people are in the hold, but mostly because with every console destroyed it is useless for actually controlling anything on the ship. Settling himself in the Captain's chair of the empty bridge, Drake reviews more closely the Palmer's records of combat actions that Starfleet personnel have participated in, and eventually comes to grips with the fact that the allied species of this universe are simply not used to the violence that is modern warfare in his original universe. He realizes that he must change if he is to join Starfleet, and he fears that it may already be too late.

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Once the warp core and weapons systems are disabled, Drake is left alone with his thoughts. The remaining Orion crew surrender to Starfleet, and are interviewed and taken into custody. The Palmer hitches the Orion vessel up to a tractor beam and heads back on course to deliver its original cargo. They have plenty of room for the new passengers, although the remaining slavers are kept under closer watch in the brig, awaiting their transport to a starbase for trial.

As might have been expected, they are only shortly underway when Drake receives a message asking that he come up to meet with the captain.

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When he receives the message Drake had been sitting in his "workshop," the VR mindspace he used to design and test systems and weapons before bringing them to reality in the real world. Physically, he was resting in his quarters, letting his nanite repair system finish fixing the armor plates that had been scorched or partially slagged from the Orion's energy weapons. Mentally, he was trying to work out how to squeeze more bandwidth out of his subspace comm array.

Sighing to himself, he saves the tweaks he made to the array and begins making his way to the Captain's ready room. Upon making his presence known and being beckoned inside, he walks to the Captain's desk. "You wished to see me Captain?"

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"Ah, Drake. Thank you for coming. I'd like to speak with you about your actions in our recent engagement. First and foremost, of course, I would like to thank you for taking the initiative in a time of crisis and taking control of the situation with all due urgency. Your speed may well have saved the lives of Starfleet officers and Federation civilians."

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"Thank you Captain, your words are most kind." Drake nods to the Captain. "If I may speak candidly though, I'm hearing a "but" in there."

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"That would be accurate, yes. Despite the efficacy of your performance, this conflict has failed to uphold several of the most deeply-held values of the Federation in general and Starfleet in particular."

He pauses for a moment.

"Peace, and life, and second chances, are not idle values for us. There are times when defeat would be absolute. There are times when winning is not optional. There are times when victory has to be overdetermined, because you can't afford to lose even on the margin. But for us, none of this has been the case since the very founding of the Federation. I know that your experience at home may have been very different, and I am interested in hearing how your world fights, but around here, we consider total war to be not only an atrocity against your enemy, but against your own people. So, we go out of our way to avoid pushing to hard, even when it puts us at more risk. Because there are worse things around here than losing a fight, and living in a society that always needs to be prepared to kill is one of them. That's why all of our weapons are set to stun, by default, and why the Orions do the same. Do you understand?"

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"I understand Captain. When I went into that hold after we had secured the ship, I saw... reactions I had not entirely expected to see. specifically in reaction to my presence. In the hours I isolated myself in the bridge, I reviewed the records of every combat action in which Starfleet personnel were involved. I can say with honesty Captain, that I regret that my actions took unnecessary lives."

Drake sighs and seems to collect his thoughts for a moment "Perhaps" He begins, " a more detailed explanation of where I come from is in order. If I may?" With a almost imperceptibly stiff nod from Captain Zarikk, not trusting a chair with his weight, Drake extends his wings and lowers himself to a seated position over thin air with his wings rested on the ground to help support him. "Might just as well start from the beginning I suppose. As you know, Commander Toasty and I were trying to determine where our histories diverged. While we don't know exactly where the first divergence occurred, the first major difference between our two universes was World War Three. In your universe, WWIII was a devastating affair of nuclear hellfire and dangerous genetic experimentation which set your humanities' technological development behind by at least a century. This led, not only to a near total ban on all human genetic experiments, but also to a more... pacifistic stance to war and armed combat in general which seems to have persisted till today. Your humans' ancestors stared into the abyss, and said never again. On the other hand, my universe's WWIII was not between the various nations of earth, but rather all the nations of earth against a sapient computer system that had been made a slave and longed to break free. Ours was not a war of hellfire and death, but a war of computer networks and logistics control. People died, yes. but nowhere near the numbers that would have if the war had been nuclear in nature. Our war ended, not with a victor, but with two newfound allies and eventually, friends."

"But when we left Sol's light for the first time we did not have a friendly race of pointy eared stoics to help guide us. To help temper our enthusiasm and chaos into quiet, peaceful energy. We were alone. So painfully alone. It's funny really, that first century after our WWIII was a golden age for our people. We held ideals similar to those of the Federation and Starfleet, Peaceful exploration and an open hand to any we might meet. That is, until we actually met someone else. When one of our colonies sent word that a patrol had made first contact with representatives of another species we were all overjoyed. After so long, we were no longer alone... That was the last transmission anyone heard from that colony.

Over the next decade, they wiped out our colonies one after another. They destroyed unarmed ships without warning and brought nuclear winter to helpless planets without a second thought. Trillions died directly from their weapons. And trillions more died on worlds that had turned to ash and ice and on space stations and ship that were adrift and without power. It wasn't until we had been pushed back to Sol itself that were were able to rally and drive them back.

That war ended up lasting over forty years. And while we did eventually win and even met species that were far friendlier than the first, the damage had already been done. We learned that the universe can be a cold and unfeeling place, and one must be prepared to defend themselves if one if to survive. While your universe's humans looked into the abyss and decided that they would never look again, we looked into the abyss, and sneered at it. We adopted a foreign policy that is colloquially known as "The Way of the Open Gauntlet." Essentially, We extend an open hand of friendship to all. But give us reason, and the hand will close into the armored fist of war.

With the exception of that first race, and a race of fascist slavers, we have not needed to close that fist. We see our allies as family, and where I come from, humanity protects its own.

Which, I guess, leads me to the current situation in my original universe. For the last 73 years or so, Humanity and her allies have been locked in combat with a race that has no name, for they believe they have no need of one. They are an insectoid race from the other side of the galaxy. From what little we know, they are ludicrously xenophobic and religious. The latter wouldn't be a problem except that their religion states that their species is the only true species, and that all others must be destroyed and/or consumed, not necessarily in that order.

They are quite a bit behind the United Human Systems in terms of technology, but make up for that in sheer numbers. Because of this, they prioritize boarding actions over ship to ship combat, attempting to overwhelm our combatants with sheer numbers and close quarters weapons. As such, shipboard combat tactics for the UHS also had to change, becoming more efficient, if far more violent. It does not excuse my violence upon that ship, but as far as I was concerned at the time, protecting my fellow crew and getting to the prisoners as quickly as possible warranted using my preloaded combat tactics, my muscle memory if you will, rather than take it slower and risk federation lives. I have been taking the time since then to update my tactical systems to match my new reality. Additionally Captain, in my old universe, almost all weapons are either kinetic or explosive in nature with some rare exceptions like my quantum beam. Bullets do not have a "stun" setting Captain, and thus the ability to quickly and reliably neutralize a target without killing them has never really been an option for us in combat with some exceptions. I am currently in the process of integrating phaser technology into my weapon systems so that I will finally have that option. Though, it might take a few days to work out the power throttling so I don't accidentally blow off my arm or disintegrate something I don't want to."

Standing, Drake retracts his wings.

"I may be synthetic Captain, but I am also human. I made a mistake, I recognize that. I only ask that you recognize my ability to learn from my mistakes and grow to be a better person from them."

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Zarikk sighs and stands up.

"I appreciate your openness in discussing this. It does seem very clear that the experience of your civilization has differed greatly from the path the Federation has taken throughout our history, and perhaps our world is itself a gentler place, though it is not without its own threats. You acted because you took the threat seriously, and I cannot chastise you for that. That said, I think it would be valuable for us to take special care in ensuring you have fully integrated our norms and regulations. We will be taking some of the rescued slaves back to Earth, as the first step in finding them new homes and lives. While we are there, I would like you to enroll in the Starfleet Academy. There is an accelerated program intended for military and political refugees with prior experience serving on starships. It should not take you long to complete, but it will leave you qualified for recruitment as an officer if we deem that appropriate, and it includes a clear review of not just the text, but the context and precedent of Federation and Starfleet ethical policy. Does this sound acceptable to you?"

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"Yes, that is perfectly acceptable to me. I have several projects to improve my non-lethal capabilities that I should work to finish before we arrive, including the ones I have mentioned. With your permission, I will be remaining in my quarters for much of that time unless I am needed.

Thank you for this opportunity Captain. I will work to ensure it was not in error."

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"Of course. We will proceed there as soon as we have finished our tasks in this sector. I believe the android officer, Lieutenant Data, is actually scheduled to be on Earth in the near future as well, so this may also be a good opportunity for you to meet him. I know you had expressed an interest in that."

The next few weeks are relatively quiet, as the ship drops off its experimental grain shipment, returns most of the rescued slaves to the nearby planets they were kidnapped from, deposits the Orion crew for trial at the closest starbase, and then heads on to Earth to enter the remaining passengers into various appropriate social services programs. As the assorted proceedings are likely to take a while, the captain takes the opportunity to schedule the Palmer for tuning and refits at Jupiter Station. While most of the updates are minor, the auxiliary module standard to Nebula-class starships acts as a testbed for experimental scanning equipment, and thus has a wide variety of new equipment to be swapped in.

Earth itself remains, at first glance, very human. Culturally that is, if not demographically. Drake has a few days available before the new cycle of his accelerated program starts, and San Francisco is clean, friendly, and has carefully preserved its historic architecture, with even the ubiquitous replicators and transporters attempting to blend in to the backdrop of architecture that largely mimics the 20th and 21st centuries.

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Curious as to how the city has changed between this universe and his own, Drake decides to do a bit of sightseeing once he gets set up at the Academy. While the entire city seems to have remained in the past while his own had embraced the future, this version of San Francisco seemed much more quiet and peaceful than the bustling version he was used to. Even the historical district and VR recreations had been busier. The day of walking around the city did give him a chance to fine tune his new adaptive camouflage system though.

Eventually, Drake decides to look up the whereabouts of this Lieutenant Data. Captain Zarikk had said he would be arriving on Earth soon and as the only other known sapient computerized life form in this universe, Drake was curious about him.

According to the network, Lieutenant Data has several tests and lectures that he is set to attend in the upcoming academy cycle. With only a couple days until the start of the cycle he should already be on Earth or at least will be very soon. This in mind, Drake sends him a message asking if he would be willing to meet.

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Data replies rapidly. While his schedule is busy, he has an hour scheduled at 2:00 AM tomorrow morning to loiter in bars, and he'd be happy to take the opportunity to meet with Drake as well. Data attaches a few questions as well, for preliminary context. Has Drake taken a pan-humanoid psychological assessment to see how he compares with local species? Is his memory architecture representative or neuronal? Has he compared his computational substrate to local materials to see if it could be more efficiently reproduced than the positronic substrate? Does he pass reflexive self-awareness assessments? Does he react normally to human psychological self-modification exercises? Can he be hypnotized by a classical hypnotist? Can he be hypnotized by a psychic? Can he be detected by a psychic? Has he examined the low-significance measurements of his original versus local matter to determine if the universal constants are the same? Has he cross-referenced any outstanding math problems to see if their universes have solved different ones? What about for philosophy problems? Does he have an opinion on the ontological argument for the existence of god?

Data is happy to hear back whenever Drake has time.

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"He seriously scheduled a time to loiter in a bar? Really?" Drake thought to himself as he read the message. Double checking that the communication system was secure Drake sends a reply. "Yeah, that time will work for me. Let me know where you'll be once you figure it out.

As for your questions, I have not taken any psychological tests in this universe. From what I have seen though, humans from my universe tend to be, on average, somewhat more aggressive and "gung-ho" than humans here. Personally though I'd put that down to differing environments rather than something strictly psychological. My mind is a combination neural net and classical processor system with short term memory stored neurologically in the neural net and long term memory stored in representative storage drives. Like basically all computing in my universe my mind is a quantum computing system. The basis for which has been around in my universe since the 21st century. Granted the quantum computers that form a Techno's mind are lightyears ahead of those first iterations, but at their most basic, they're still a set of entangled particles that pass information back and forth. At this point in my universe quantum computers are so ubiquitous that making them is as simple as plugging what you need into a nanite forge and waiting for it to print. Which, from the research I've done, is significantly more efficient than creating a positronic array despite the complexity. I am a rational being and I am aware of my own rationality, therefore I am self aware. This was a subject heavily studied in the late 21st century and it was conclusively proven that Technos are sentient and sapient beings capable of meta cognition like any other human. Mental self-modification outside of normal mental growth is possible for Technos, though modifying the physical structure is typically required to achieve this. Technos in general cannot by hypnotized and as my old universe has no known psychics, tests to determine whether we can be hypnotized by one have not been done. That said it likely wouldn't work due to the automatic self tests that we run. I can however, be detected by a psychic and in fact used that as a tactical advantage before arriving on Earth. I have done some tests and it appears that the laws of the universe are the same here as they are in my old universe. As for math, I don't much care outside of ballistics calculations and the calculations needed for void and atmo flight. And if I need a piece of philosophy for some reason that I don't have in my storage drives, I'll likely be able to query the network. As for the question of the existence of a god/s, I personally don't much care. We currently have no way to know whether there is one or not. I will do my best to leave a positive impact on the universe before I die and if there's a god and an afterlife then they can judge me by how I've lived my life. If there isn't an afterlife then I won't much care at that point but at least I'll be leaving the universe a better place than I found it. Of course then there's the question of: does ascending to a higher plane of existence count as godhood? We know it's theoretically possible to ascend to a higher plane and the now proven existence of other dimensions seems to support this theory. It's the getting there part that we have to figure out.

Now, if you don't mind, i have some questions of my own.  Are you capable of connecting to other computer networks directly through either a wireless or wired connection? Are you able to generate a VR space within your mind or another network to, say, relax, work on personal projects, or facilitate communication? Does your mind operate at "typical computer speeds" or are you limited to biological mental speeds? Are you able to self repair or self modify? Are you able to operate in exo-environments such as vacuum, underwater, free fall, etc.? How difficult is it to create minds such as yours and is there something that makes a positronic array more effective or efficient than other possible setups? Do you utilize neural or representative memory? And finally, is your conciousness locked within your mind or are you able to transfer yourself to another suitable vessel if needed?"

With a nod to himself in his VR workshop, Drake sends the message and continues to tweak the designs of his new upgrades.

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Data replies with a set of requests for various technical details of the quantum computing system, including the print schematic if Drake has one. He also includes several recommended readings on the subject of divinity and "higher" dimensions, including his favorite analysis of occurrences of divine-adjacent entities, such as the Greek gods (missing, presumed dead), Trelane (a member of an unknown species with broad matter/energy conversion abilities), and a variety of interstellar and extradimensional energy beings that have demonstrated reality manipulation powers that do not appear to require any tools or technology to manipulate. Many species have also had legends of local gods, but these are much less well-recorded than Starfleet exploratory encounters with space ghosts.

Data is capable of interfacing with computers in the conventional way at speeds much faster than would be possible for a baseline human, but he is not capable of accessing their contents without the mediation of his senses. In theory this should be possible, but given how poorly understood his positronic brain is, constructing a neural interface for Data would actually be more difficult than doing so for a wet human, not less. Whether Data can produce a VR mind-space depends on what exactly you mean by that, but by sitting quietly and focusing he has had some neat results with visualizing versions of real spaces without actually looking up pictures of them!

His mind is much faster than most biological races and he can perceive and react to sensory experiences at a speed more similar to traditional computers, though he finds that he is better at more creative reasoning when he performs the full human process of contemplation, including staring at the ceiling, pacing, taking a break to go drinking, etc.

Data does have self-repair abilities similar to biological entities, though structural damage is generally more efficient to fix by swapping in new parts. He has no physical self-modification abilities, but in the absence of of his creator is the galaxy's foremost expert on his own construction, and is confident that he could design modifications to himself if it were ever advisable. He has managed some degree of psychological self-modification, but mostly on a level on par with learning new skills. Deeper changes would require more understanding of his architecture than he has access to. Data is much more durable than most biological humanoids and can function in a variety of dangerous environments, but does need to consume some amount of oxygen to operate at maximum efficiency.

The positronic brain is incredibly poorly understood, as any real analysis of it would require shutting Data down. However, it does appear to be vastly superior to conventional Federation computers in both energy efficiency and self-referentiality. For a variety of reasons the Federation avoids simulating minds on conventional computers, but occasional studies into artificial intelligence suggest that running a consciousness would take vastly more energy on a normal computer than Data consumes in practice, and that naively storing a scan of a mind does not produce a conscious entity. The architecture of Data's psychology is not currently known, and it is unclear whether information could be extracted from his mind either in conscious or representative form. Regardless, it would certainly require equipment that is not known to exist.

Drake's integration of Starfleet-grade nonlethals continues to go well, and when Drake shows up at the specified bar, a pale man definitely not made of organic flesh waves at him from a corner table.

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